Here’s what we’ll be watching when Oklahoma and Texas battle in the Red River Rivalry at 11 a.m. CT at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Replacing Corey Nelson: It’s been a disappointing end to his senior season for the Dallas native. Nelson, a linebacker, will miss the remainder of the season with a pectoral injury that will need surgery, but Dominique Alexander, a freshman from Tulsa, Okla., has played well in spot duty for the Sooners. OU is confident the youngster will play well today, but there’s no question he will be wide-eyed early and the Longhorns will probably try to expose him as much as they can with a quality group of running backs led by Johnathan Gray.
Quarterback Blake Bell's first RRR start: The junior has had a bunch of success in the Red River Rivalry, scoring four rushing touchdowns in the Sooners' 63-21 win in 2012. Yet he’s never been the trigger man of OU’s offense at the Cotton Bowl. Bell had a subpar game against TCU with 152 passing yards, so it will be interesting to see how he responds to his worst production of the season.
OU running game: The Sooners have dominated on the ground, and thus the scoreboard, during the past two seasons. OU averaged 6.1 yards per rush and scored seven touchdowns on the ground in its back-to-back blowout wins and will be looking to match its season average of 246 rushing yards per game against the Longhorns. Frankly, the Sooners might not need much from Bell if they can get running backs Brennan Clay and Damien Williams unleashed in the open field against UT.
OU's aggressive defense: Turnovers have helped spark the Sooners’ three-game win streak, with the Sooners owning a plus-8 turnover margin against Texas and scoring 44 points off Longhorns turnovers. Don’t be surprised if that trend continues on Saturday, as defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has been more aggressive this season and the Sooners defense features a faster, more versatile unit. This season's Sooners have a turnover margin of plus-3 and have not allowed a point off of a turnover, so don't be surprised if they find a way to make turnovers a key in this game as well.
Big play battle: The Red River Rivalry is known for the big plays that make legends of its participants. Roy Williams’ Superman leap, Trey Millard's stiff-arm hurdle and Williams’ 95-yard scoring gallop immediately come to mind. Who will make a big play that will be remembered in this year’s edition?